Our History

At TVA, we live our history of service every day.

TVA’s original 1933 purpose—set forth in the TVA Act—was to address the Valley's most important issues in energy, environmental stewardship and economic development. Learn about key moments in our history as we’ve tackled important issues in the Tennessee Valley such as power production, flood control and reforestation, and about how our mission of service lives on today. Click on the dates below to get a more thorough accounting of TVA's history from decade to decade.

The 1930s

With the country reeling from the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created his “New Deal” to help America recover. The Tennessee Valley Authority was founded to help the hard-hit Tennessee Valley, where it was tasked with improving the quality of life in the region.

The 1940s

Against the backdrop of World War II, TVA launched one of the largest hydropower construction programs ever undertaken in the United States.

The 1950s

Serving as the nation’s largest electricity supplier, TVA benefited from 1959 legislation that made our power system self-financing.

The 1960s

Accommodating unprecedented economic growth, TVA began building nuclear plants to expand our capacity and spur innovation.

The 1970s–80s

A difficult decade affected by rising fuel costs led to innovative thinking about energy conservation. Working successfully to stop a steady rise in energy costs, we paved the way for a long period of stable rates.

The 1990s

Through a period of restructuring, TVA kept wholesale electric power affordable and reliable while unveiling a new clean-air strategy.

The 2000s

With power demand growing, TVA turned its attention back to clean nuclear energy, returning an idled reactor to service, and paving the way to finish construction of another. We also launched the first green power program in the Southeast.

The 2010s

We continue to carry out our mission of serving the people of the Tennessee Valley region, to make life better through our work in energy, the environment and economic development.

TVA Heritage

These in-depth columns tell the story of TVA through the people and events that shaped its history—and indeed life in the Tennessee Valley as we know it today. Read about the vision, conflicts, personal and political struggles that made TVA great.

The TVA Act

Signed in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act created a public corporation “To improve the navigability and to provide for the flood control of the Tennessee River; to provide for reforestation and the proper use of marginal lands in the Tennessee Valley; to provide for the agricultural and industrial development of said valley...and for other purposes.” Click here to read the act.

Bibliography of TVA History

A comprehensive bibliography for those who want to dig more deeply into the rich and fascinating history of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Built for the People

The Unified Development of the Tennessee River plan stressed TVA was to provide flood control, navigation and electricity for the region. TVA’s dams are tangible evidence of its primary mission: improving life in the Tennessee Valley. We’re celebrating the plan with an in-depth look at 32 of the dams it comprises.

Educational Resources

Writing a school report? Looking for STEM activities or home school projects? Use these resources to find out about TVA's history and ongoing mission of service.

TVA STEM has lessons and activities that meet Tennessee state academic standards. You can also learn about STEM careers!

Currents of Change has interactive history lessons which trace the transformation of the Tennessee Valley from the Great Depression through today. Lessons meet Tennessee and Alabama state academic standards.

Be a Citizen Archivist!

Want a glimpse of life in bygone Appalachia while helping genealogists and other researchers? The National Archives and Records Administration needs volunteers to help transcribe its vast historical records, including those on families impacted by the construction of TVA dams. Learn how to join the effort.